November 1991

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Donald Arthur Rowland

Wayne Municipal Historian


Bill Treichler

Don Rowland has been Wayne Historian for eleven years, and in that time he has assembled more than 100 notebooks about the history of Wayne, its famous residents, and the ventures they undertook. Don has made a scrapbook on Doctor Benjamin Welles, one of the very first settlers along the east side of the lake. He has collected a thick scrapbook of notes about Francis McDowell, who was one of the founders of the National Grange. Another of his scrapbooks chronicles the activities of Samuel Hallett, who was a contractor for part of the Union Pacific Railroad and built a colonnaded mansion at Wayne for his family. Still another notebook documents the life of John B. Mitchell, an early storekeeper and moneylender in the village of Wayne, who gave Sam Hallett and the McDowell boys their start.

Don has notebooks on the churches and cemeteries of Wayne town. One contains the story of a Baptist church that was moved several times to follow its congregation, finally ending up as the North Urbana Baptist Chapel just outside of Wayne. Recently Don has started a scrapbook on the Maccabee Fraternal Society that once had a lodge hall in Wayne hamlet.

Don continually updates his scrapbooks by adding news clippings, letters, maps, and old photographs as they come to him. He writes corrections and revised dates on pages already in the three-ring binders. Periodically, he reorganizes the notebooks and adds illustrated title pages, chronological listings of events, and indexes.

Nearly all of his scrapbooks contain maps. The ones on cemeteries contain scale maps of the plots with gravestone locations. Don has measured the sites where accurate maps don't already exist. With each cemetery map there is a small map in a corner that shows the location of the cemetery. Along with the maps are lists of all the people buried in the graveyard. The information in these cemetery notebooks makes it much easier for a person searching for ancestors to find family names and to go to a gravesite to confirm dates of birth and death.

Don Rowland has collected copies of all the old maps of this area that he can find. Some of these maps have the names of property owners written in on different parcels of land. He scanned these maps with a magnifying glass to be able to read the faint names. On enlarged copies of the maps he then pasted typewritten names so that when the map was reduced the owner's names are readable. Don calls these "People Maps" because you can locate where people lived or owned property at the different times when these maps were made.

Wayne was at one time a part of Frederickstown, named for that early entrepreneur, Frederick Bartles, who had a sawmill at Bradford and sent the first lumber down the Conhocton into the Susquehanna and all the way to Baltimore. Frederickstown was one of the six original towns in Steuben County. In 1804 a section of Cayuga County was added to Steuben County and to Frederickstown. Two years later that part was removed to become the Town of Reading. Later the name Frederickstown was changed to Wayne to honor General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Since then Wayne has been partitioned and its boundaries changed many times. The towns of Barrington and Starkey that had once been a part of Frederickstown became part of Yates County. Orange, Reading, and Tyrone had also been in Frederickstown, and they became part of Schuyler County when it was formed. Only Bradford and Wayne, itself, remain now in Steuben County. Don has reconstructed a whole series of maps that show all these changes caused by legislative acts over the years.

In addition to his scrapbooks about so much of Wayne history and all his maps of the area in and around Wayne, Mr. Rowland is working on a record of all the items in the Veterans Museum at the Bath Veterans Medical Center. It is a pictorial catalog of the museum that starts by showing where the museum building is located among the other buildings of the center. Then there are floor plans for each level of the building, and room plans that show each cabinet and desk. Finally, there are sheets with measured drawings of each piece of furniture and a listing of all the items stored on each shelf and in each drawer. Don says, this way other people will know where items that are listed in the collection are stored.

Don Rowland is an organizer. He may have been born with this talent, and he may have developed it from the time in his youth when he worked with his father and his brother building boats and other projects. When he was in the army from 1941 to 1945 he became Operations Sergeant of the 592nd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. When this Task Group moved from northern Australia up through New Guinea, the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago, to Leyte, Luzon and finally to Yokohama, he was responsible for the outfit's supplies. He also wrote the field orders for their landings. Don often drew maps on the orders to clarify the operation for the commanders. He usually went ashore with the second to fifth wave to set up a command post. These responsibilities must have been a test for his organizational skills.

Don was born in Rochester and lived at a number of places in and around Rochester when he was young. His mother's father, Archibald Ockenden, had a farm on the east side of the Genesee River. Grandfather Ockenden had slips along the river for boat owners, and even had a square-rigged boat he had sailed from Florida and up the St. Lawrence. Don remembers well the family gatherings at Grandfather Ockenden's vineyard on the westside of the bluff along Lake Keuka.

For most of Don's early life his family lived in LeRoy. His father was estate manager for the Woodward family until they sold the Jell-O Company and moved away from their place in LeRoy. His dad had always worked around machines and boats and had been in charge of the engine on the Woodward's boat when he lived in Summerville. As a young man before he was married, Art Rowland had raced motorcycles, and test driven limousines manufactured in Rochester by the Cunningham company.

Don and his brother Archie built Lark sailboats with their father and took them to Conesus Lake where they sailed the boats in races until they could sell them. From about 1932 until 1941 his family spent summers at a cottage on Conesus Lake.

Don graduated from LeRoy high school in 1939 and the next year got a job at the Lapp Insulator Company that made porcelain insulators for electric transmission lines. The personnel director at the plant remembered seeing in the LeRoy Library a display of models Don had made in school. He sent Don to work in the department that made molds for the insulators. There Don was encouraged by one of the engineers to request an interview at the School of Ceramics at Alfred University and to take along examples of work that he had done at the company during his lunch hours. Don went, and remembers the questioning he received by three faculty members as a grueling experience. But in several weeks he received a card asking if he intended, or not, to accept a scholarship to Alfred. Don went off to Alfred and started his studies. In his freshman year there he became manager of the freshman football squad.

At the end of his sophomore year in 1942, he enlisted in the army and joined an amphibious engineer's outfit. They trained at Fort Ord in California, then shipped to Australia and trained Australian forces along the eastern coast before moving to northern Australia and on up through the islands to the Philippines. About the last he remembers of the war was being a member of the Color Guard in a big parade at Yokohama.

Don came home in November. He didn't lose anytime in going to Whitesville, New York, to see Vivian Lucille Clark whom he had first met at Alfred when he was a sophomore in college just before the war. When he was able to convince her that she should marry him, they were married December 22, 1945.

Don had re-enrolled at Alfred University in the College of Ceramics as a design student. Two years later he was awarded a BFA in Industrial Ceramic Design. While he was going to classes, Don worked for the Andover China Company that made fine translucent dinnerware. There he was foreman of the plaster shop where the molds for casting the porcelain dishes were made. By the time he got his degree in 1948 he was responsible for about one half of the plant's production. In 1949 he was 29 years old, had become production supervisor at Andover China, and was in training to become plant manager. He left Andover, however, to go to Oklahoma A & M at Okmulgee and set up a new department of ceramic technology in the School of Technical Training. There he selected material and equipment, prepared course outlines, and set up a system of progress reports and student records. When the program was underway, Don taught ceramic technology, drawing, and design courses. During the six years he was at Okmulgee, Don was always much involved with student projects and local potters. He organized the Oklahoma Potters Association in those years.

The Rowlands returned to New York in 1955. Don worked three years in the Chemical, Physics, and Engineering departments at the Westinghouse plant near Bath until 1958. In 1959 he presented an art-skills program on educational TV. When school began in 1960 he started teaching art in Bath schools. Don received a Master of Science degree in Art Education from the State University College at Buffalo in 1963, and that year became chairman of the Art Department at Haverling High School. In 1966-68 he was chairman of the Western-Central New York Art Teachers Association, as well as secretary to the state art teachers association.

In 1968 the Rowlands bought a place on Lake Keuka that had been in the original Gleason property in Wayne, and later part of Carenaught estate started by William Halsey and enlarged by C. W. Drake.

The Rowlands have three children, a son and two identical-twin daughters: Michael Clark Rowland, is a surgeon and lives with his family in Southern Pines, North Carolina; Connie Rowland is adminsitrative assistant for Harvey's Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada; and Bonnie Kearns is a Home Economics teacher at Gloversville, New York. They all come often to visit their parents at their beautiful place on Lake Keuka.

Don retired as head of the Haverling Art Department in 1978, but he couldn't stay still. He was soon painting a scenic map of Wayne on a wall of the new town office building. In 1980 he became Wayne Historian. Don is collecting material in several large notebooks for a Wayne history. Now that he has charted all the cemeteries in Wayne, he is moving out into the adjoining towns that were once a part of Wayne Town and mapping their cemeteries. Don spends every Thursday at the Veterans Museum in Bath, showing the collection to visitors. He is an active member of the Jo-Ho genealogy group, a board member of the Crooked Lake Historical Society, and an active member of the Steuben County Historical Society.

© 1991, Bill Treichler
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